“A threefold cord is not quickly broken.” – Eccles. 4:12, NRSV
Is finding leaders for your congregational stewardship ministry a joy or a chore? If it’s the latter, perhaps it’s time to take a fresh look at your stewardship ministry team structure. Bruce Barkhauer, Minister for Faith and Giving at the Center for Faith and Giving of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) suggests that congregations have three teams for stewardship ministry leadership: the Stewardship Team, the Legacy Gifts Team, and the Finance Team.
The Stewardship Team
The Stewardship Team’s responsibilities focus on Christian stewardship as discipleship, giving as an essential part of our life as Christian stewards, and connecting generosity with the church’s mission and ministry. Activities for the Stewardship Team include educating the church on the many facets of stewardship, overseeing the annual stewardship campaign, and regularly communicating about how the congregation’s generosity is supporting its mission and ministry. Creative, visionary, and spiritual persons who are good communicators have important gifts for this team.
The Legacy Gifts Team
Legacy gifts are a unique type of generosity, and persons should have the necessary knowledge, discernment, and trust of the congregation to be members of the Legacy Gifts Team. This team needs to make sure the required policies and relationships with the appropriate supporting financial institutions exist to receive legacy gifts. This team invites legacy gifts, celebrates the gifts and the givers, and upholds donor intent.
The Finance Team
The Finance Team is the manager of the gifts received and how they support the congregation’s mission and ministry, including monitoring income and expenses and generating financial reports. They also should take responsibility for thanking the givers. Persons with accounting and business experience are often good fits for this team. Other important characteristics are being able to analyze trends, understand and interpret the church’s vision, and be realistic without being alarmist.
All Year ‘Round
While certain tasks for these teams may take place at specific times of the year, the overall responsibilities are ongoing. Each team should plan a year-long, or perhaps multiple-year, strategy to accomplish its goals. For example, the Legacy Team can develop a plan for inviting legacy gifts and regularly reviewing policies. The Finance Team can create processes for sharing reports, reviewing financial status, and acknowledging the generosity of congregational members. Along with overseeing the annual stewardship campaign, the Stewardship Team can develop educational and communications strategies that uplift the importance of faithful generosity all year long.
Don’t Function in Silos
While each team has specific tasks and responsibilities, they need to see themselves as complementary components of the congregation’s comprehensive stewardship ministry. Teams should regularly communicate with each other to develop shared understandings and to work effectively and efficiently to best serve the church.
Concepts are Key
If your congregation is small (or maybe not so small!), the idea of creating and maintaining three teams for stewardship ministry may seem overwhelming. Create a structure that fits your situation and encompasses all the responsibilities of the teams suggested. Paying attention to all three will strengthen your congregation’s vitality by:
• claiming Christian stewardship is discipleship: how we live our lives in response to God’s bounteous grace;
• naming giving as an essential part of our life as Christian stewards: meant to be practiced generously and joyfully;
• celebrating God’s abundance as our opportunity to be channels through which God’s generosity can flow and God’s love can be shared.
Bio: Marcia Shetler became the Executive Director/CEO of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center in March 2011. She holds an MA in philanthropy and development from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, a BS in business administration from Indiana Wesleyan University, and a Bible Certificate from Eastern Mennonite University. She formerly served as administrative staff in two middle judicatories of the Church of the Brethren, and most recently was director of communications and public relations for Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Indiana, an administrative faculty position. Shetler’s vocational, spiritual, and family experiences have shaped her vision and passion for faithful stewardship ministry that recognizes and celebrates the diversity of Christ’s church and the common call to all disciples to the sacred practice of stewardship. She is grateful for the blessing of connecting, inspiring, and equipping Christian steward leaders to transform church communities.